Location: Lubbock, Texas
Federal Circuit: 5th Circuit
Texas Tech University has been given the speech code rating Yellow. Yellow light colleges and universities are those institutions with at least one ambiguous policy that too easily encourages administrative abuse and arbitrary application. Read more here.
February 6, 2003
FIRE intervened at Texas Tech when students recognized its overbroad policies, which include a speech code that prohibited "insults," "ridicule," and "personal attacks," and restricted free speech to twenty foot-diameter gazebo referred to as a "Free Speech Zone." With FIRE’s coordination and support, along with the Liberty Legal Institute and the Alliance Defense Fund, the students successfully sought and achieved elimination of the overbroad speech code. Covered widely in the media, the case at Texas Tech also drew support from over 900 students, who signed a petition for free speech on campus, as well as a student organization, Students for […]» Read More
Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies
Examples of inappropriate behavior that may constitute unlawful sexual harassment include, but are not limited to:
i. Sexual teasing, jokes, remarks, questions, looks, gestures,
innuendoes or stories;
ii. Sexual favoritism;
iii. Pressure for dates or sexual favors;
iv. Gifts, letters, calls, e-mails, or materials of a sexual nature;
v. Sexually explicit visual material (calendars, posters, cards, software, internet materials);
vi. Communicating in a demeaning manner with sexual overtones;
vii. Inappropriate comments about dress or physical appearance; or
viii. Non-consensual video or audio-taping of sexual activity;
ix. Inappropriate discussion of private sexual behavior;
x. Exposing one’s genitals or inducing another to expose their genitals;
xi. Unwelcome physical contact (touching, patting, stroking, rubbing);
xii. Non-consensual sexual intercourse.
xiii. Other gender-based threats, discrimination, intimidation, hazing, bullying, stalking, or violence
Speech Code Category: Internet Usage Policies
Users must not purposely engage in activity that may: harass (including sexual harassment), threaten or abuse others; degrade the performance of Information Resources; deprive an authorized user access to an information resource; obtain extra resources beyond those allocated; and/or circumvent computer security measures.
Users must not intentionally access, create, store or transmit material which Texas Tech University may deem to be offensive, indecent or obscene as defined by Chapter 43 of the State of Texas Penal Code on Public Indecency. (Exceptions may be made for academic research where this aspect of the research has the explicit approval of the Texas Tech University official processes for dealing with academic ethical issues).
Speech Code Category: Policies on Tolerance, Respect, and Civility
Students engaged in freedom of expression activities may be subject to discipline under the Code of Student Conduct for the following actions: … Activities that include the use of obscenities, libelous statements, or “fighting words,” as defined by law.
Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies
Intentional or reckless behavior that harms, threatens, or endangers the physical or emotional health or safety of self or others….
Speech Code Category: Internet Usage Policies, StatementPurposely engaging in activity that may harass,
intimidate, threaten, endanger, or abuse others ....
Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies
Discriminatory harassment is verbal or physical conduct based on a student’s sex, race, national origin, religion, age, disability, sexual orientation, or other protected categories, classes, or characteristics and is so severe, persistent, or pervasive it adversely affects the victim’s education or creates an intimidating, hostile, abusive or offensive educational environment which interferes with the student’s ability to realize the intended benefits of the University’s resources and opportunities.
b. Examples of inappropriate behavior that may constitute discriminatory harassment include, but are not limited to:
i. Slurs and jokes about a protected class of persons or about a particular person based on protected status, such as sex or race;
ii. Display of explicit or offensive calendars, posters, pictures, drawings, screen savers, e-mails, or cartoons in any format that reflects disparagingly upon a class of persons or a particular person;
iii. Derogatory remarks about a person’s national origin, race or other ethnic characteristic;
iv. Disparaging or disrespectful comments if such comments
are made because of a person’s protected status;
v. Loud or angry outbursts or obscenities in the academic environment directed toward another student, faculty, staff, or visitor; or
vi. Disparate treatment without a legitimate business reason.
Speech Code Category: Advertised Commitments to Free Expression
The open exchange of information, opinions, and ideas between students is an essential element of the campus experience. These policies are intended to protect the interests of all students as well as other members of the university community. These policies presume that students are generally free to engage in freedom of expression activities in those outdoor areas of campus that are common and accessible to all students (such as park-like areas and sidewalks) without the need of prior approval of the university.
Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies
c. Sexual Misconduct
Nonconsensual conduct of a sexual nature that is sufficiently severe, persistent, or pervasive that it unreasonably interferes with the student’s educational experience.
1. Sexual Harassment
Unwelcome verbal, written or physical conduct of a sexual nature that is sufficiently severe, persistent, or pervasive that it unreasonably interfere’s with the student’s educational experience.
Speech Code Category: Advertised Commitments to Free Expression
As members of the academic community, University students enjoy the privileges and share the obligations of the larger community of which the University is a part. … Freedom of discussion, inquiry and expression is protected and nurtured in the classroom as the safeguard of the freedom to learn.
Speech Code Category: Bullying Policies
a. Repeated or severe aggressive behaviors that intimidate or intentionally harm or control another person physically.
b. Severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive behaviors that intimidate or intentionally harm or control another person emotionally.
February 8, 2012
College campuses in the Lone Star State got an “F” on a report card from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, or FIRE. More than 80-percent of Texas college campuses, including Texas Tech received a red light rating. Director of Speech Code Research with FIRE Samantha Harris said Texas schools have a lot of work to do. “Texas has a long way to go to when it comes to protecting student speech on campus,” she said. “We rate universities by red light, yellow light, green light depending upon how much speech they restrict that would otherwise be protected by the First Amendment and the […]» Read More
July 5, 2006
by Jim Brown Agape Press The University of Nevada at Reno (UNR) has eliminated so-called “speech zones” that limited student expression on campus. The university’s previous policy had designated only four small or remote areas on its grounds as “public forum” spaces while explicitly deeming the rest of the campus a non-public forum. The new policy adopted by the university, however, allows students to use the entire campus — except for the interior of buildings — to demonstrate, protest, or pass out flyers and newspapers. Student activists working with the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada and the Foundation for […]» Read More
April 20, 2006
Tech’s free-speech campus gives students outlet to voice opinions by Andrew Wood The Daily Toreador (Texas Tech Univ.) Global injustice. Gay marriage. War or no war. Spreading the Christian gospel.The free speech area at Texas Tech has been a forum for people to express their views on those topics and many other topics most people might not even know about. While some events are a peaceful protest, others end up with an atmosphere much like a World Wrestling Entertainment battle royal. The latest exhibition was an Injustice Wall, placed there by Intervarsity Christian Fellowship, a Tech student organization, earlier this […]» Read More
December 17, 2005
Two UNC-Greensboro students face discipline for protesting outside the university’s designated “free speech and assembly areas,” based on a policy that a national civil liberties organization calls unconstitutional. The students, Allison Jaynes and Robert Sinnott, were charged with a “violation of respect” under the student code of conduct at UNC-Greensboro after a Nov. 16 protest attended by about 40 people. The two students face disciplinary action that could range from a warning to a probation with restrictions. The demonstration outside the library by UNCG College Libertarians was aimed specifically at the university’s policy governing the location of protests on campus. […]» Read More
October 24, 2005
As an American citizen, one has a constitutional right to have and state opinions, but officials at college campuses around the country say there is a time and a place for it. This issue is not foreign to San Diego State. Free speech zones began to appear on college campuses during the 1980s as a way for university administrators to allow students to voice their opinions and put on demonstrations without inhibiting the surrounding learning environment, according to a May 2003 Associated Press article ,”Schools under fire for ‘free speech zones.’” But many believe the idea of “free-speech zones” on […]» Read More
September 3, 2005
By Greg Lukianoff in The Boston Globe As summer ends and college students return to campus, a number of dreadful court decisions may cause them to wonder if their rights have taken a permanent vacation. While the past decades have hardly been a golden age for student rights, there was good reason to be optimistic in recent years. Speech codes fell at colleges from New York to California, the Department of Education finally clarified that “harassment” does not mean just being offended, and Texas Tech University had to admit that its lone 20-foot-wide “free speech gazebo” was inadequate space for […]» Read More
May 16, 2005
The State University of New York at Brockport has agreed to repeal its speech code. It is the fourth consecutive victory for a Philadelphia-based group in its campaign against such codes on America’s public college and university campuses. Last June, with help from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), two students in the College Republican Club filed a federal lawsuit alleging that SUNY Brockport’s anti-harassment policies violated their free-speech rights. Under Brockport’s speech code, examples of harassment included “cartoons that depict religious figures in compromising situations,” calling someone an “old bag,” and “jokes … making fun of any […]» Read More
April 15, 2005
David French knows what intimidation is. French, the new President of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, graduated from Harvard Law School in the early 1990s. One might say that anyone with similar credentials ought to know the definition of intimidation – but French’s experience is a bit more personal than that.“As a pro-life, Christian conservative, I received death threats in my campus mailbox, was shouted down by students and (once) was even shouted down in class by my own professor,” he says about his years in Cambridge. French now spends much of his time explaining to university general […]» Read More
December 29, 2004
by Greg Lukianoff at Daily Journal For those of you who are concerned about the state of free expression on campus, I would like to introduce you to Texas Tech University’s “Free Speech Gazebo.” The Gazebo is only 20 feet wide, and in early 2003, it was the sole area on campus where students could engage in free-speech activities – demonstrations, speeches or even handing out pamphlets – without clearing it with the university a minimum of six days in advance. To illustrate the lunacy of this policy, I asked one of my friends, who has a math degree from […]» Read More
October 2, 2004
A federal judge has struck down a policy at Texas Tech requiring students to make public speeches in special free-speech zones.The ruling by U.S. District Judge Sam Cummings stemmed from a lawsuit filed in 2003 by two civil liberties groups on behalf of Jason Roberts, a former law student who has since graduated.The lawsuit claimed that the one location that Tech designated as a free-speech zone – a 20-foot wide gazebo that can hold about 40 people – and a policy that required a permit for speech at other campus locations were restrictive and violated students’ First and Fourteenth Amendments. […]» Read More
January 7, 2004
David Horowitz thinks that anybody who cares about the future should confront the fact that U.S. colleges and universities are the fountainhead of financing for the radical movement in America. He has personally taken up the challenge to do something about this.Horowitz was a left-wing campus activist in the 1960s, but he says that men who were too radical even for him and Ramparts, the magazine he edited in the 1960s, now hold tenure at major universities. During the 1970s, these hardcore leftists achieved critical mass on university faculties, took control of hiring committees, and then saw to it that […]» Read More
January 1, 2004
PHILADELPHIA — One out of four college students in a nationwide survey was unable to name any of the freedoms protected by the First Amendment, according to a free-speech watchdog group.“These survey results are disheartening, but they unfortunately are not surprising,” says Alan Charles Kors, president of the nonprofit Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE).Even among campus administrators who were surveyed, from presidents to assistant deans, 11 percent couldn’t name any specific First Amendment rights, the survey indicated. And when asked which freedom the amendment addresses first, only 2 percent of the students and 6 percent of the administrators […]» Read More
October 20, 2003
By Sally Gunter at University Daily» Read More
June 13, 2003
By Delaney Hall at The Daily Texan» Read More
May 9, 2014
This spring, FIRE has already brought you the news of women’s rights activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali being disinvited from speaking at Brandeis University, Condoleezza Rice canceling her commencement speech at Rutgers University after some students objected to her invitation, and Pasadena City College disinviting and then re-inviting Academy Award-winning writer Dustin Lance Black. It’s been a pretty active “disinvitation season” so far, and free speech advocates are speaking up about why this trend is so worrying.» Read More
April 7, 2014
FIRE announces its Speech Code of the Month for April 2014: Colorado Mesa University. Colorado Mesa’s policy on “Free Speech” limits students’ expressive activities to just one “concrete patio” on the university’s 86-acre campus. While the university has the right to enact reasonable time, place, and manner restrictions, courts have held time and again that onerous restrictions like this one are not reasonable.» Read More
January 12, 2010
The Star-Telegram (Fort Worth, Texas) is reporting on today’s hearing in federal court regarding FIRE’s case at Tarrant County College (TCC). As Torch readers will remember, TCC violated the constitutional rights of student protesters who intended to participate in the national “Students for Concealed Carry on Campus” protest by wearing empty holsters—just like students around the country were doing. The students were told that they could not wear the holsters anywhere on campus and had to confine all protests to tiny “free speech zones.” Ultimately, with the help of FIRE and the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, the students […]» Read More
December 16, 2009
Yesterday, FOX34 News in Lubbock, Texas, ran a segment on Texas Tech University’s “red-light” rating in FIRE’s Spotlight database. The university earned this rating because of language in its policy on e-mail and computer use that restricts freedom of expression by stating that The use of computers and the network is a privilege, not a right–a privilege that may be temporarily or even permanently revoked at any time for abusive conduct. Such conduct would include … the use of abusive or otherwise objectionable language in either public or private messages ….. Will Creeley, FIRE’s Director of Legal and Public Advocacy, […]» Read More
December 15, 2009
Some of Tech’s policies are drawing fire from FIRE the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. In 2004, this national organization coordinated a successful legal challenge resulting in expanded free speech zones on Tech’s campus and a re-write of the university’s speech code. Now FIRE is giving Tech a “red light” rating for policies it deems restricts freedom of expression by students and faculty using university computers and email. FIRE’s Director of Legal and Public Advocacy Will Creeley says the issue is policy dependence on subjective standards. “By granting university administrators the power to decide what speech is and is not objectionable, the […]» Read More
September 24, 2009
FIRE’s newest Justice Robert H. Jackson Legal Fellow is Erica Goldberg. Erica is a graduate of Tufts University, where she was editor-in-chief of Tufts’ weekly newspaper, and of Stanford Law School, where she was a member of the moot court board. She also served as a law clerk to the Honorable Ronald L. Gilman on the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, where she was confronted with various deprivations of freedom of expression. Before becoming a Robert H. Jackson fellow, Erica worked for two years as an appellate attorney at Latham & Watkins in Washington D.C. and then as […]» Read More
June 30, 2009
One of the most important lawsuits ever coordinated by FIRE’s Speech Code Litigation Project was filed six years ago this June against Texas Tech University. The lawsuit challenged the university’s policies, which were “overbroad, vague, involve[d] content-based and viewpoint discrimination, and unconstitutionally restrict[ed] student speech.” Specifically, it challenged Texas Tech’s unconstitutional speech code and free speech zone. Texas Tech’s speech code banned “communications [that] humiliate any person.” The university’s examples of such punishable expression included “sexual innuendoes,” “referring to an adult as ‘girl,’ ‘boy,’ or ‘honey,’” or “sexual stories.” As bad as the speech code was, Texas Tech cemented its […]» Read More
December 19, 2008
Deanna Isaacs of the Chicago Reader reports troubling developments at Northeastern Illinois University (NEIU), a public university in Chicago. According to Isaacs, NEIU President Sharon K. Hahs has proposed instituting an unconstitutional free speech zone on the NEIU campus, with prior approval requirements that put an impermissible onus on students and faculty members seeking to exercise their constitutional rights of assembly and demonstration. FIRE has not yet seen Hahs’ proposed policy, but if Isaacs’ description is accurate the implications are breathtaking: Proposed by university president Sharon K. Hahs, the Policy Concerning Demonstrations on Campus, Distribution and Display of Visual Communications […]» Read More
June 28, 2007
When you think of a place where order takes precedence over liberty, where the government regulates every minute aspect of civil life, you may well think of Singapore. Over the years, Singapore has made the news for everything from caning an American teenager for vandalism to banning chewing gum to fining people for failing to flush public toilets. But if you think Singapore and the United States don’t have much in common, think again. We need only look to that supposed bastion of liberty—the American university—to find common ground. Singapore maintains a Speakers’ Corner (you can see a picture» Read More
January 5, 2007
Emmett Hogan is a student at University of Michigan Law School and a luminary early FIRE employee. As we looked back on 2006 in campus rights and abuses I wanted to check in with him for his thoughts on the past year in FIRE history. This was his thoughtful response: One of FIRE’s most gripping cases from 2006 involved a breathtaking exercise in thought reform by Michigan State University. FIRE publicly challenged what MSU calls a “Student Accountability in Community Seminar” (SAC) which is intended to address student behavior that administrators consider unacceptable; the seminar is successful only when it […]» Read More
June 24, 2005
The Daytona Beach News-Journal article that Charles discusses below highlights the controversy over many public universities’ “free speech zone” policies—policies that limit free speech to specific, and often tiny, areas of campus. FIRE President David French is quoted as saying that free speech zone policies are “very common”—“[i]t’s gotten to the point where if I’m looking at a policy and I don’t see free-speech zones, I’m shocked.” Universities often try to justify restrictive free speech zones by arguing that they are “reasonable time, place, and manner” regulations that are permissible under First Amendment law. However, free speech zone policies like […]» Read More
March 17, 2005
Everybody loves free speech until they’re the one offended. Then somebody had better pay. Or so it would seem at the University of North Texas, where the residue from a student protest six weeks ago finds a Hispanic organization searching for vindication, a conservative group refusing to apologize and a university chancellor failing to appease all sides. “We have a long way to go in all this,” says the aforementioned chancellor, Lee Jackson. They do indeed–with nothing less than the First Amendment on the line. But first, some background. The Young Conservatives of Texas, a student organization that takes stances […]» Read More
February 22, 2005
Responding to our recent post about the University of North Texas, a reader from Texas wrote: Well, I appreciate your understanding of the scale of things here in Texas. I noticed that, in your discussion of the fun at North Texas, you made reference to “nearby Texas Tech.” We are about 300 miles from North Texas. Yeah, that’s sorta “nearby” in Texas. Great point and thanks for writing! The scale of Texas plays havoc with my New York mind. I looked it up, UNT and TTU are therefore ten Rhode Islands away from each other! Not shocking to Texans, I […]» Read More
February 21, 2005
The Denton, Texas, Record-Chronicle carried a story on Saturday (registration required) about an uproar over a free-expression issue at the University of North Texas. Apparently, the university chapter of the Young Conservatives of Texas (YCT) at UNT held a “Capture an Illegal Immigrant” event to draw attention to what they see as the problem of illegal immigration in Texas (you can read about it in the UNT student paper or read a bunch of articles about it at the UNT YCT website). Basically, YCT had a few students around campus put on orange shirts with the words “Illegal Immigrant” on […]» Read More
This Month in FIRE History: FIRE Declares Free Speech Should Not Be Quarantined to Tiny ‘Free Speech Zones’
February 17, 2005
Three years ago this month, back when FIRE was in its toddlerhood, we won our very first victory in the battle against so-called Free Speech Zones. These “speech zone” policies restrict free speech and expression to tiny corners of campus and have been identified (and often defeated, thankfully) at dozens of campuses across the country. West Virginia University has the dubious distinction of being our first “speech zone” case. The university’s policy stated: “Due to the limitations of space on the downtown campus, the two designated areas for free speech and assembly will be the amphitheater area of the Mountainlair […]» Read More
October 15, 2004
A federal judge has struck down “free-speech zones” at Texas Tech University, ruling unconstitutional a requirement that students who wish to give speeches must stay within a designated area. The case was brought by Jason Roberts, a law student who had sought to speak publicly about his view that “homosexuality is a sinful, immoral, and unhealthy lifestyle.” He asked administrators for permission to give the speech outside the designated zone — a 20-foot-wide gazebo that can hold about 40 people. According to the lawsuit, officials turned down the request, saying that it was “the expression of a personal belief and thus […]» Read More
October 11, 2004
While there is no shortage of free-speech battles on college campuses, fraternities have the dubious honor of being at the center of many of the least-sympathetic controversies. From Halloween parties where brothers show up dressed as Ku Klux Klan members to fraternity newsletters that graphically relate a brother’s sexual exploits with named co-eds, fraternities sometimes express themselves in ways that are not exactly likely to win the battle for hearts and minds. However, although fraternities later may regret the actions of some of their brothers, they must not allow their rights to be stripped away by overzealous or opportunistic administrators. […]» Read More
October 5, 2004
LUBBOCK, Texas, October 5, 2004—In the third victory in the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education’s (FIRE’s) ongoing legal campaign for free speech on America’s public campuses, a federal judge struck down Texas Tech University’s speech code. The judge also ordered large areas of the university to be opened to free expression and prohibited the university from enforcing several other severe limitations on speech. The case against Texas Tech was coordinated by FIRE and filed by the Liberty Legal Institute and the Alliance Defense Fund against Texas Tech President Donald R. Haragan as part of FIRE’s ongoing Speech Codes Litigation […]» Read More
September 16, 2004
I. Introduction While there is no shortage of free speech battles on college campuses, fraternities have the dubious honor of being at the center of many of the least sympathetic controversies. From Halloween parties where brothers show up dressed as Ku Klux Klan members to fraternity newsletters that graphically relate a brother’s sexual exploits with named co-eds, fraternities sometimes express themselves in ways that are not exactly likely to win the battle for hearts and minds. However, although fraternities may later regret the actions of some of their brothers, they must not allow their rights to be stripped away by […]» Read More
December 9, 2003
LUBBOCK, TX—In response to the pressure of a free-speech lawsuit and student demands for constitutional rights, Texas Tech University is backing away from at least some of its severe restrictions upon free expression. In July, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) coordinated a lawsuit to force Texas Tech—a public university with 28,000 students—to eliminate a speech code that had designated only one 280-square-foot gazebo for free speech. In response, the university has greatly expanded the number of free speech zones from one small area to six substantially larger areas. “We are heartened that the suit and student activism […]» Read More